TRENTON — Assemblyman Tim Eustace on Thursday announced plans to introduce legislation that would ban the controversial practice known as “conversion therapy” aimed at changing the sexual orientation of minors, a measure similar to one that recently passed the California State Assembly overwhelmingly.
Eustace noted that the practice has been condemned by the three of the leading mental health associations – the American Psychological Association, the American Counseling Association and the American Psychiatric Association, among other groups – as well as one of the nation’s leading psychiatrists – Dr. Robert Spitzer – who initially published a study supporting the practice nearly a dozen years ago.
“Studies and personal testimony have shown this practice creates irreparable harm on young people struggling to come to terms with their sexuality,” said Eustace (D-Bergen/Passaic). “Forcing someone to deny their innate feelings and their very existence has led to depression, suicidal tendencies and other untold harm. Leading psychological professionals agree that this practice has no place in legitimate mental health therapies. I hope New Jersey will join California in leading the way on standing up to this harmful practice.”
Specifically, the bill would prohibit counseling to change the sexual orientation of a minor. Under the provisions of the bill, a person who provides professional counseling, including, but not limited to, a psychiatrist, licensed practicing psychologist, certified social worker, licensed clinical social worker, licensed social worker, licensed marriage and family therapist, certified psychoanalyst, or a person who performs counseling as part of their professional training, shall not engage in “sexual orientation change efforts” with a person under 18 years of age.
The bill defines “sexual orientation change efforts” as the practice of seeking to change a person’s sexual persuasion or reduce or eliminate sexual romantic attractions, feelings, or behaviors because those attractions, feelings, or behavior are directed toward a person of a particular gender or both genders.
Eustace plans to formally introduce the legislation when the Assembly returns on Sept. 24.